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Bullying comes in hallways, cyberspace

Cyberbullying is not just another Internet term we should learn and dismiss.

It’s a pretty real thing and people have proven to get mindlessly mean on the Internet under the mask of possible anonymity or even just because they are not looking someone in the eye and saying it.

Words read on Facebook or over an email can be just as painful as said face to face, whether you are an adult or a child. But they are especially painful for a child who has not learned many life lessons and who still has a positive outlook on the world.

Kids now are on cellphones constantly and they don’t just have to worry about being bullied in the hallway at school — they now have the potential to wake up to or try to go to sleep after someone sends a mean text.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and Mississippi’s attorney general, Jim Hood, encourages residents of our state to learn more about cyberbullying and communicate with children, especially teens, and offer healthy tips on how to handle it and not let anything impact their performance in school.

Parents take note: Hood said a middle school child is likely to be cyberbullied over a cellphone and older teens are more likely to become victims of dating bullying. On the other hand, parents also need to keep a watch on their child’s phone and Internet usage to ensure he or she is not bullying someone else, because there are harsh penalties. It’s a felony to use the Internet or cellphone to threaten bodily harm or communicate repeatedly to threaten or harass a person. A conviction can lead to a fine of $5,000 and up to two years in prison.

Schools are required by law to have a bullying policy and students and teachers with knowledge of any bullying incidents are required to report it.

Have open discussions with your children about the consequences of improper phone and Internet use and what could happen if someone is cyberbullied. We hear in the news regularly about children committing suicide because they were bullied and those kinds of losses are devastating. Keep an eye on social media and phone usage and take note if something seems amiss. While children need privacy, they also need protection from themselves and others. Don’t hesitate to intervene and monitor their phones and lives. Parents make the difference.